Regional focus – how to attract future workforce and businesses

On August 18, the Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC) hosted its Regional Economic Development Forum, the second in a series of forums held around the state in 2016, at the Bridges Golf Course in Montrose, CO.

Inspired by Regions 9, 10, and Mesa County this one-day forum focused on issues that affect many communities around the state. Presentations on preparing and attracting tomorrow’s talent, supporting small business and manufacturers, and growing and attracting business to rural areas, provided attendees tools and resources to take back and implement in their own communities.

Attended by over 100 economic development professionals, policy leaders, and area businesses, the forum also addressed air service challenges that our regional and rural airports face, and the changing landscape of agriculture.

Featured presenters included Dennis Lankes, co-founder of Proximity Space – just named the best co-working space in the World, Sara Maffey Duncan, president & CEO of Edgewood Strategies, and Matt Skinner, chief operating officer for Colorado Flights Alliance to name a few.

Dennis Lankes and fellow panelists Gerrit McGowan, director for WSCU Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Project in Gunnison, and Josh Hudnall, co-founder of Launch West CO in Grand Junction, presented on our changing workforce and what types of infrastructure we need to have in place in order to meet their future needs. “Just like the expectation of being able to turn a light on, today’s workforce has the expectation of staying connected.” Lankes said. Josh Hudnall added that “millennials need a sense of purpose and community in their workplace.”

Sara Maffey Duncan was joined by Laura Brandt, director of Economic Development for Metro Denver EDC and Sam Bailey, senior manager of Industry Development for OEDIT. They provided ideas for rural communities to market and to attract site selectors and businesses to their area. “Think regionally,” Sara commented. “If you can work together as a region, you can then help answer workforce questions rural communities face. It also gives a variety of life style options for a company who is looking in your area.”

Matt Skinner and fellow panelists Kip Turner, director for Grand Junction Regional Airport, and Bill Swelbar, vice president of InterVISTAS, presented on the state of our regional airports. Since 2011 when the western slope saw a large decline in seat capacity, the western slope airports began to think regionally. “Montrose has increased by 5 percent in seats since 2011,” Matt said. “We attribute this largely to our regional focus. When the oil and gas companies started to exit the Grand Junction market and the airport couldn’t fill their seat capacity, Montrose helped back-fill those seats to prevent loosing the flight for the western slope.”

Event supporters included:
Platinum Sponsor, Colorado Workforce Center, Regional Partner Sponsors, Region 9 Economic Development District and Region 10, Coffee Sponsor, Black Hills Energy

Gypsum hires Jeremy Rietmann as economic development director

To shepherd its new economic development push, the town of Gypsum has hired someone who knows a thing or two about this valley’s financial assets and drawbacks. Jeremy Rietmann, business development director for the Vail Valley Partnership for the past five years, has been hired as Gypsum’s new economic development director.

Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll noted that there were a number of great candidates who applied for the town’s newly created economic development position, but Rietmann’s background and his familiarity with the area put him at the top of the town’s list.

“I feel like we just signed Von Miller, without the $70 million up front payment,” said Shroll.

Rietmann is equally enthused about his new gig.

“I think that Gypsum offers a lot of opportunities and has a vision for what it is and what it wants to be,” said Rietmann.

CHANGED EXPECTATIONS

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when governments started launching economic development efforts, the job involved luring businesses to communities. That idea still holds, but the efforts look a lot different today.

Back in the day, an economic development director might spend his or her time courting a big box retailer or a manufacturing firm, selling a specific community as the perfect spot to build. In today’s world, where brick and mortar retail options are shrinking and internet commerce is exploding, Rietmann said economic development is focused more making sure communities can provide the assets that today’s entrepreneurs need.

To that end, Rietmann said he will work to evaluate what the town has to offer, build a strong customer service philosophy and monitor the global economy to make sure what Gypsum is doing fits in with what the larger market needs.

“You aren’t sitting in a vacuum in Gypsum,” Rietmann said. “Things have just changed too much in the last 10 years regarding what is possible and realistic with small towns.”

For many people, all they need to perform their jobs is secure high-speed internet access. Rietmann said Gypsum, and other small towns, need to focus on providing adequate bandwidth for these workers and then concentrate on something basic — making sure their communities are places where people want to live.

That’s what economic development looks like in 2016, Rietmann said.

WORKING TOGETHER

Now, more than ever, Rietmann believes the various communities in Eagle County are learning that they get farther by working together. That means every town needs to embrace what it is and build on that foundation, he said.

“The Gypsum Town Council knows their town is a bedroom community and it’s not a dirty word at all. It means they have a great quality of life and people want to live there,” said Rietmann.

That’s a great asset as Gypsum looks at economic development, he said.

“I think that Gypsum’s location, smack dab in the middle of Colorado, is amazing,” said Rietmann. He also cited the community’s access to transportation portals including Interstate 70 and the Eagle County Regional Airport as a boon, along with its proximity to the upvalley resort communities.

While Gypsum has all that to offer, it is also a more reasonably priced housing market, said Rietmann.

The community is also a valley melting pot, he continued. Kids from six public elementary and middle schools all wind up at Gypsum’s Eagle Valley High School, he noted. There, families from throughout the valley eventually bond together.

“I come to this job with a regional perspective,” said Rietmann. “There should be a positive, symbiotic relationship between Gypsum and Eagle.”

FIRST STEPS

Rietmann will begin work with Gypsum Aug. 8 and his first efforts will be directed toward participation in the Gypsum master planning process that is currently under way.

“In developing the community master plan, they want a voice from a business/entrepreneurial mindset,” he said. “We need to identify what are the key things this community is going to need to be successful in the future.”

As he starts that work, he plans to ask a lot of questions, get a lot of advice and identify key needs. Some of that work has already been done, as Gypsum has set identification of a downtown core and efforts to improve the appearance and increase the allure of the town’s I-70 exit as priorities.

“I think there are opportunities for people to create and explore unique experiences in this community,” said Rietmann. “But unless you get off the highway, you don’t know what’s available here.”

As a State, what can we learn from Western Slope Colorado?

Montrose is pleased to be the host for the second 2016 EDCC Regional Economic Development Forum. We have an exciting lineup of topics and panelists that will cover a range of issues that affect Western Slope Colorado, as well as many communities around the state.

Regions 9, 10, and Mesa county will present on top issues facing their regions including innovative ways they have met their challenges. Panel discussions through out the day, will provide information, ideas, and tools you will be able to take back to your communities.

See the exciting lineup of topics:

  • A Generational Movement: What types of infrastructure is needed to attract and retain tomorrow’s talent.
  • Supporting our Existing Businesses: Available tools needed to help increase efficiency, decrease cost, and ultimately help existing businesses grow.
  • Growing and Attracting Business: Learn from our experienced panel; Sam Bailey, Senior Manager of Industry Development for OEDIT, Laura Brandt, Director of Economic Development for Metro Denver EDC, and Sara Maffey Duncan, a site consultant with Edgewood Strategies.
  • Regional Air Service – How to Grow and Retain Regional & Rural Flights: Airports are the life-line for a thriving business community. Hear from leading airport professionals on what it will take to grow and retain regional & rural air service.
  • The New Wave in Agriculture – Is Your Region Ready? Agriculture is one of the largest industries for the Western Slope. How is it changing, what are the opportunities for new crops, and how does hemp play a role?

This was just a teaser! View our agenda to see our exciting lineup of speakers. Then register! Do not miss the opportunity to participate in a day filled with in-depth information and discussions.

We look forward to seeing you in Montrose on August 18th!

Sandy Head
Director, Montrose Economic Development Corp.
Chair, Regional Economic Development Forum

New State website celebrates companies that have chosen Colorado

Relies heavily on storytelling and encourages other businesses to share their history

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) just launched a new website that celebrates the companies that have chosen to do business in the state. At the same time, the site provides the needed tools and resources for executives who are considering moving to Colorado and local job creators who are growing and retaining businesses in their communities.

“The momentum of the state’s competitiveness has been fueled by a vibrant small business ecosystem, highly skilled workforce, and the creation of a comprehensive economic development strategy fueled by the Colorado Blueprint,” said Fiona Arnold, executive director of OEDIT. “I’m thrilled that we now have a platform that leverages our tools and resources and focuses on storytelling to feature the value proposition of Colorado as a place to do business.”

Since 2013, more than 111 companies have announced expansions or relocations in the state bringing in more than 27,076 jobs. These projects have supported net new job creation in Colorado’s urban and rural communities across diverse industries of small and large firms.

While national rankings continue to list Colorado in the top for living and doing business, OEDIT wanted a channel where they could provide more in-depth insights than just a list to showcase why being in Colorado is good for business.

“Before we began the process of developing a new website, we conducted a survey of business executives both in and out of state to learn about their impressions of Colorado and where there might be opportunities for our marketing efforts,” said Liz Cahill, chief marketing officer for OEDIT. “We learned that more than half of the respondents had positive feelings associated with the state including confidence in the business climate, emboldened by a smart workforce, and inspired by our location. Our issue was that our website didn’t communicate any of these optimistic outlooks.”

At the heart and soul of the website are stories from executives of Colorado companies discussing why they choose to do business in the state; whether it’s the ability to tap into an invigorated workforce, partner with innovative executives, collaborate with a business-friendly government, or take advantage of the Rocky Mountains.

One of those executives was Becky Yoder, CFO at Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC.

“It was important for me to share the story of how we found success in Colorado, because I wanted to help inspire others, especially international firms that are looking to have a U.S. presence, on the benefits of collaborating with related technology firms who are oftentimes right down the road,” Yoder said. “Partnerships and collaboration in this expansive Colorado aerospace community are key to fulfilling our customers’ missions. We would be hard pressed to find that anywhere else.”

The website features an initial set of success stories, photos and videos from Colorado companies across various industries including Surrey Satellite, Panasonic, High Noon, Boa and Ball Aerospace. In total, more than 60 Colorado companies and organizations contributed to the new website.

“There’s something special about the people who choose Colorado. These are the people who are tackling some of the nation’s most critical issues, and they are doing it together because they want to better their industry and our economy,” Cahill said. “The fact that these executives took time out of their busy schedules to share their story or source a photo is a testament to their passion and drive for ensuring Colorado’s success.”

Cahill hopes that more Colorado companies will be inspired to use this platform as a vehicle to tell their story and is currently seeking submissions indefinitely.

For more information on doing business in Colorado or to submit your company’s story for consideration visit www.choosecolorado.com.